Healthcare systems around the world struggle with unsustainability. Especially during a tough year of the Covid crisis. Tech innovations are giving industry opportunities to grow. Thus, with all the outcomes of the pandemic, some countries support and develop digital health strategies. One of the trends that are growing for a while is smartphone usage to deliver health care services. As per statistics, the medical mobile apps market worldwide is estimated to reach over $11 billion by 2025.
According to a survey, only in January 2021 alone, 4.66 billion people around the world used the Internet. Almost 5.22 billion people use a mobile phone today. Unique mobile users have grown by 1.8 percent (93 million) since January 2020. No wonder that mobile health apps have become the driving force of the healthcare industry.
Benefits of mHealth
Healthcare apps support you in accomplishing health-related tasks. People use such applications for various purposes like diagnosing patients remotely, controlling pregnancy, monitoring weight loss as well as stress, smoking cessation, etc. These are examples of mHealth (Mobile + Health) use. The market for these applications is growing rapidly, bringing thousands of applications aimed at various health care goals. According to Mobius MD, there are now more than 318,000 health programs available in major app stores. More than 60 percent of people have downloaded the mHealth program.
There are two main categories of healthcare apps:
- Wellness management apps – facilitating tracking and improvement of your lifestyle.
- Health condition management apps – providing information on conditions and enabling access to remote treatment.
Health care workers use medical devices and apps for many purposes as well. According to the research, the reasons may be grouped under a few categories: administration, health record maintenance, and access, communications and consulting, reference, and medical education.
Creating a mobile application with useful features like regular reminders, the option to make an appointment, or view the results of the examination online, is a convenient way for medical institutions to attract new customers. Today people choose those medical services that provide them with full access to their medical data and the opportunity to get all the necessary information online.
Let’s take a look at some healthcare mobile app trends that will evolve in 2021.
Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
Global AI in the Healthcare Market is to reach $35,892.2 Million by 2030. Now we have access to more health data than ever. With AI we have the possibility to process large amounts of information and gain insights that were impossible before. AI apps will help us with faster, cheaper, and more accurate ways to make medical diagnoses. Having the ability to analyze information, recognize patterns, and derive trends in ways that humans can’t, algorithms can identify long-term health dangers.
The purpose of this technology is to help healthcare workers. It allows users to get 24/7 assistance with basic medical questions. With the help of medical chatbots, you can set medication reminders to take pills on time or make drug references to access information considering specific drugs: names, etc. For instance, Britain’s national health service has been using chatbots to reduce the pressure on non-emergency helplines since 2017. The app, developed by UK startup Babylon, asks people questions about their illnesses in a chat window before giving them advice — whether they need to visit a doctor, or if the problem is likely to pass in time.
The peak of the popularity of wearable devices was a few years ago. As per the survey, approximately 45% of Americans have tried fitness trackers or mobile health apps. And 20% are using both fitness trackers and apps. We are used to devices that usually work with mobile apps. They count steps, calories, our water intake, and more. And also check heartbeat rate and blood pressure, monitor physical activity, etc. The newest trend is a smart sleep alarm. How does it work? Since we sleep in cycles, we can feel completely rested depending on where we are in the cycle at the time of waking up. Smart alarms analyze your sleep and wake you up at the right time.
BigTech takes mHealth
A few years ago, stakeholders related to the healthcare industry used mHealth as an extension of their core business and competed with digital healthcare companies whose business was 100% focused on mobile products and services. In fact, today this software market became popular with non-health players, such as market research companies and BigTech. For example, Apple focuses on its consumer products to turn them into medical-monitoring devices. Amazon is building on its distribution savvy to sell prescription drugs and medical supplies online. Google is focusing on the analysis of big data and Uber wants to replace ambulances by arranging non-emergency transportation.
Expansion of telemedicine
According to the Director of The Medical Futurist Institute, Dr. Bertalan Mesko this year will be about telemedicine becoming an essential mobile health trend. Remote assistance through different devices will be a safe approach in an increasing number of countries. It will also cover more rural areas and video consultations will be added to care options. Telehealth will become a more common tool within medical care. Even in emergency rooms, hospitals, and insurance offices.
Some companies have included telemedicine services in their additional package of benefit. In particular, Visa offers its clients in Ukraine to take care of physical and mental health online with its telemedicine service. Medical support includes:
- selection of clinics and doctors for counseling
- assistance with the selection of necessary drugs with the possibility of organizing delivery
- testing for COVID-19 only in case you’re traveling abroad.
Advantages of telemedicine services:
- Saving time: doctor’s consultations 24/7;
- Convenient online service: wherever you are;
- Confidentiality: you choose the place and time yourself;
- Alternative medical opinion: you can find out the point of view of another specialist;
- Enables patients to look for the best healthcare experts.
Devices or applications that can help to detect the symptoms of some diseases have been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. Smartwatches, pulse oximeters, patch sensors, or even online voice analyses are in demand and this trend is expected to evolve further. Dutch startup Luscii is an example of the platform that operates at the intersection of patients and healthcare professionals. We envision an active role for patients in their care and health. With this app, patients measure their own vital values at home and answer questions about their well-being, interactive education offers them guidance in daily life.
Focus on Security
Personal health information is a sensitive matter. Today is not enough to develop apps with nice UI design and top technical performance. Potential users have to trust you. The pandemic pushed patients on online visits with their doctors. Unfortunately, hackers paid their attention to this new surface of attack in search of protected health information as well.
In order to highlight the potential threats, cybersecurity researcher Alissa Knight partnered with mobile security company Approov to conduct an experiment. Together they hacked 30 mobile health apps. The results were published in a report – All That We Let In. It stated that all of the apps were found to be vulnerable to API attacks, and some allowed access to electronic health records (EHRs). The 30 apps collectively expose 23 million mobile health users to attacks. Out of the 30 app tests, 77% contained hardcoded API keys, of which some do not expire, and 7% had hardcoded usernames and passwords.
Thus, nowadays it is crucial for software developers and healthcare organizations to monitor the controls they implement for mobile applications and adjust them to the requirements of current legislation. In the USA market, it’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. The idea is to ensure patient data protection.
To Sum Up
The outcomes of the pandemic, the rapid spread of smartphones, wearable sensors, cloud-based computing, and intelligent technologies have led to opportunities for patient self-monitoring, and scaling access to health care, and created conditions for mobile health technologies to strengthen the healthcare industry. Millions of people are already turning to such technologies.